10 Worst Scandals in NFL History

Tyson Langland@TysonNFLNFC West Lead WriterJune 5, 2013

10 Worst Scandals in NFL History

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    Even though NFL players and coaches are often held to a higher standard, they have proven over the years that they are human and prone to mistakes. Some have committed heinous crimes, while others have broken NFL-mandated rules. 

    Whatever the scandals may be, their legacies will be forever tarnished because of them. Let’s examine the 10 worst scandals in NFL history. 

O.J. Simpson Murder Trial

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    To this day, the O.J. Simpson trial is one of the most talked-about scandals in United States history. Everything from the murder glove to the white Bronco has been talked about over and over since the case came to a close on October 3, 1995. 

    Few could believe the verdict when it was handed down. Even though piles of evidence suggested Simpson murdered his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Lyle Goldman, the jury acquitted the Hall of Fame running back after eight long months of deliberation. 

Michael Vick and His Dogfighting Ring

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    Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick found himself in hot water back in 2007 when he pled guilty to the federal felony dogfighting conspiracy charge. According to inhumane.org, 53 pit bulls that showed signs of injury were seized from Vick’s property along with 12 deceased pit bull terriers.

    The dogfighting scandal not only sent Vick’s life into a tailspin, but it sent Atlanta’s organization into a tailspin as well. In 2008, Vick filed for bankruptcy. It was estimated that the superstar quarterback owed creditors nearly $20 million. 

Rae Carruth Murder Mystery

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    Former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Rae Carruth was never able to live up to his lofty draft status in the NFL. He only played three seasons in the league while catching 62 passes for 804 yards and four touchdowns. Yet, not being able to live up to his lofty draft status was a drop in the bucket compared to his current 17-year prison sentence.

    Carruth was found guilty of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in 2001. According to Michael Bamberger of SI.com, prosecutors said the 25-year-old wideout arranged to have his 24-year-old girlfriend Cherica Adams killed in a drive-by shooting. Not only was Adams the target, but their unborn child was believed to be a target as well.

    Carruth is currently scheduled for release on October 28, 2018.


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    When the NFL caught wind of the New Orleans Saints' bounty program, commissioner Roger Goodell ruled with an iron fist. Per ESPN.com, Goodell called the cash payouts for injuries "particularly unusual and egregious" and "totally unacceptable."

    Head coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams were both suspended for one season (2012) without pay, and general manager Mickey Loomis was suspended for the first eight games of the 2012 season.

    Additionally, Goodell fined the Saints $500,000 and revoked their second-round pick in 2012 and 2013. Even though paying players for injuring the opposition has happened before, New Orleans was simply unlucky because they got caught in the act. 


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    One day before the New England Patriots' 17-14 Super Bowl XLII loss, John Tomase of the Boston Herald reported the Patriots had taped St. Louis’ practice prior to Super Bowl XXXVI. Former Patriots video assistant Matt Walsh disclosed the information after the team fired him in 2003.

    Head coach Bill Belichick told Christopher Gasper of the Boston Globe that he had never seen the practice tape. However, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wasn’t buying it. Goodell imposed a few hard sanctions. He fined the organization $250,000 and Coach Belichick $500,000. 

    Moreover, he took away New England’s first-round pick in 2008. 

Paul Hornung-Alex Karras Gambling Scandal

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    Betting on professional sports as a player is a big no-no, just ask Paul Hornung and Alex Karras. Both players were suspended in 1963 after they admitted to betting on NFL games. At the time, Hornung was one of the NFL’s most celebrated players, and Karras was an annual Pro Bowl selection.

    After their one-year suspension, commissioner Pete Rozelle reinstated Hornung and Karras in 1964. The long-time Green Bay Packer (Hornung) was ushered into the Hall of Fame in 1986. Karras hasn’t landed in the Hall of Fame, but he was named to the NFL’s all-decade team for 1960.

Minnesota Vikings Love Boat

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    The Minnesota Vikings' 2005 "love boat" scandal has to be one of the weirdest stories in recent memory. There were 17 members of the Vikings who rented out two houseboats and flew in prostitutes from Georgia and Florida. 

    From there, the players performed sexual acts in front of the 90 people who were aboard the boats. When pictures of the event hit the Internet, criminal charges followed. Four players (Daunte Culpepper, Bryant McKinnie, Fred Smoot and Moe Williams) were charged with indecent conduct. 

    In 2006, Smoot was fined $82,352, and McKinnie was fined $41,176. Not a single player was suspended over the matter.

Brett Favre-Jenn Sterger "Sexting" Scandal

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    Quarterback Brett Favre’s stay in New York was nothing short of a disaster. On the field, Favre was mediocre, as he threw for 3,472 yards and 22 interceptions in 2008. However, the All-Pro quarterback was less than impressive off the field.

    He made a mockery of himself and his family when inappropriate pictures of his genitalia surfaced on the Internet in 2010. Favre’s lewd pictures were sent to New York Jets sideline reporter Jenn Sterger. Sterger held onto the incriminating photos because they were fun to laugh at, according to A.J. Daulerio of Deadspin.com.

    The NFL went on to investigate the matter, but the league claimed it had no grounds to discipline Favre for his involvement in the scandal.

Ben Roethlisberger's Sexual Assault Allegations

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    Even though Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was never convicted of the two sexual assault accusations brought against him, the NFL felt his shoddy behavior deserved a six-game suspension. The six-game suspension in 2010 was later reduced to four games, but by that time his reputation had already taken a hit.

    In 2009, a Nevada hotel employee accused Roethlisberger of sexual assault (per TMZ.com). And in 2010, a 20-year-old college student told police that the two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback assaulted her at a nightclub (per Kevin Hayes of CBSNews.com).

Eddie DeBartolo Jr. Suspension

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    If you love the San Francisco 49ers, chances are you have a special place in your heart for former owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. DeBartolo Jr. was viewed as a successful owner who brought the city of San Francisco much joy for bringing Super Bowl championships to the Bay Area.

    Unfortunately, the 2012 Hall of Fame finalist’s career was marred by one big screwup. In 1998, DeBartolo Jr. was convicted of failing to report extortion, which related to a Louisiana casino. His failure to do so cost him $1 million and a one-year suspension from the league.

    After the bad publicity, he surrendered his control of the 49ers to his sister Marie Denise DeBartolo York.